Leeton Community Op Shop investing in youth and the future

Tuesday 22nd May 2018

The Leeton Community Op Shop is so much more than a place to purchase quality clothing, furniture and books. It is run by community focused entrepreneurs who put extra meaning into the word ‘opportunity’ – creating innovative approaches to not only raising funds, but to building skills, providing a community hub; a place to build new friendships and establishing a business model with a future.

Following the closure of a local opportunity shop, sisters Narelle Weymouth and Jodie Ridge established a new venture that would aim to provide assistance to people dealing with tough circumstances such as homelessness, financial crisis, drug and alcohol issues and food insecurity, through ongoing support with case management, referrals and a network.

Staffed by casual employees and 130 volunteers the Op-shop runs numerous programs including a Pay-It-Forward program that provides items in exchange for volunteer hours, Christmas assistance, Work for the Dole, Work to Pay Fines, before school breakfast, school Holiday activities and Sporting at the Op-Shop - where high school children can volunteer during term time instead of attending sport classes.

Impressively, the shop is also committed to helping young people develop transferable job skills such as customer service, administration and management experience. With long-term plans, it is clear this shop has a future. Narelle, the Social Inclusion Manager said the grant will not only help set up additional sales activities but will also benefit the youth involved in a more sustainable way.

“The money we received from the grant will be used to cover the cost of a stainless-steel bench top and a commercial coffee machine. With this equipment, we will be able to train at risk youth in our community, various hospitality and catering skills. Our goal is to continually build employable skills so they can move into other areas of employment. We work towards giving our staff and volunteers the opportunity for added responsibility including management roles. We also can provide extra training such as administration or financial education.”

Op-shop staff using the new coffee machine

“We have plans for a fully operational kitchen and vegetable gardens to allow us to run cooking classes. This an Op shop with a vision and dedicated to longevity. The next ten years is easy. It’s after that I’m worried about,” Narelle concluded.

Store manager Jodie added “the teahouse will also provide another revenue stream for the Op shop, increasing its viability to ultimately help more people in crisis and for longer.”

It is clear that Narelle and Jodie run the Op-Shop on love and compassion. The shop floor is bustling not just with shoppers, but people coming in for a cuppa and a chat, with children settling into the library and volunteers – it is a microcosm of the Leeton community. Jodie says “we have a vision for this place and thanks to Tim Commins, the cotton farmer who nominated our organisation through The Aussie Cotton Farmers Grow Communities program, we have been able to progress our plans and programs.”

The Monsanto fund manager in Australia, Jessica Douglas saw first-hand how many people will benefit from the grant.

“When I visited, I instantly saw the Leeton Op shop as a community hub, always bustling with people. It has created its own community where people catch up and have tea whilst providing a space for people  to have conversations and make friendships. Everyone is truly welcome there and we are proud to share a small part in its accomplishments,” said Jessica Douglas.

Click here more information on the Leeton Community Op Shop.